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The Photonics100: Polina Bayvel

With the deadline nearly upon us for nominations for The Photonics100 – our list of the industry’s top innovators in association with our sister title, Electro Optics – Fibre Systems spoke to previous honoree Polina Bayvel, Head, Optical Networks Group, Professor of Optical Communications & Networks at UCL, Dept of Electronic & Electrical Engineering about the future of her work in photonics for optical networks.

What is the next big thing in your area of photonics research?

Adaptive, intelligent low-delay, ultrawideband optical networks for the cloud and the devices needed to achieve this!

What do you think the biggest challenges in your area will be over the next year?

Designing networks .

What is the biggest personal challenge you have overcome?

The scepticism that a world-leading, experimentally based optical communications group, able to compete with industrial labs around the world, could ever be set up in a university. The challenge of balancing a demanding research and teaching career with looking after young children and elderly parents is ever-present.

What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in photonics research?

It’s an exciting, fast moving area that combines physics and engineering – there are so many opportunities in academia and industry and one really makes a tangible contribution to society. Just go for it!

Who has been the biggest help to you in your career?

I have been exceptionally lucky with my mentors. First my witty and erudite physicist father, Leopold Bayvel – who encouraged me every step of the way (and still does). My physics teacher in school, the late Nachum Ordman. Incredible mentors followed at UCL and beyond – there were so many but I have to single out Professors Sir Eric Ash and John Midwinter, who inspired, supported and encouraged me and whose advice I think of daily. And of course, my fantastic and fabulously clever students and colleagues. My longest serving colleague is Professor Robert Killey, who has worked alongside me since 1997,  to build and develop ONG into the amazing group it now is.

Who, in your opinion, are the up-and-coming R&D ‘rock stars’ in your area or organisation?

It’s very hard to pull out individuals in this very active and fast moving field – my colleagues in the Optical Networks Group are certainly leading the way! And many fantastic colleagues in the Electronic & Electrical Engineering dept – all of whom contribute to the world much more than any rock star!


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